For Pope Francis, responding to the threat faced by the environment is the most pressing task for our day. The future of our children and of the world depends on what we do today. He does not see the most important responses to climate warming to lie in better technology but in the decisions that we all make. They reach from the small choices we make each day about how to travel to work and what we eat and drink to the huge decisions that government leaders make after long deliberation about how to cut emissions from cars, from farming and from power generation. We can save and nurture our world if we care about it, want to save it, decide to do what we can, and then do it.
That is why Pope Francis in his monthly prayer intention for September 2021 prays that we all will make courageous choices. Good and lasting choices express our enthusiasms. The things that we choose are close to our heart, occupy our thoughts and dreams, and so naturally flow into our plans, our reading, our friendships and our hobbies.
These things compose what Pope Francis calls our lifestyle. This is the cloak in which we wrap ourselves. It is, woven out of the thousands of threads of decisions that we make daily – what to wear, what to eat, how to get to work, how to spend our spare time, what we spend our money on, where we live, what news items to attend to, what stories we allow to touch our hearts, what causes we support, who we partner with, and so on. A simple lifestyle is one in which the threads form a pattern of buying only what we need, walking lightly on the earth, delighting in activities that do not need expensive equipment but bring us close to nature, and celebrating lightly. It is a lifestyle built around direct relationships with other people, with our environment and our society in which we delight in sharing our hearts and minds. We are not interested in piling up money and possessions or in consuming the world’s resources but on respect for the environment of which we are part.
Pope Francis describes these choices as courageous because they are contrary to the directions in which our society leads us. These choices will lead us to opt out of competition, consumerism and compulsion to be a winner. They will make us prize simple and deep relationships to one another and to the environment of which we are part. Many of us will see happiness with less rather than more as odd, as a reproach. What they see as opting out of life we shall experience as diving into its deepest realities.
Pope Francis naturally invites us to think about and to be inspired by young people. They will inherit the world that their elders make by their decisions. They also see the simple truths that we often hide from by surrounding ourselves in complication. In young people like Greta Thunberg and the those whom she inspired we can find inspiration to be simple in what we see, what we value, and in the passion with which we seek it. They invite us to imitate their enthusiasm and their determination to make the world fit for our descendants to live in.